Thursday, 22 October 2015

Writing for a non-Christian audience

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Recently, I was taken to task by a fellow blogger and a number of her followers.  These good-hearted people objected to my blogging style, which doesn’t make my spirituality readily apparent to my readers. In other words, I don’t come straight out and say, ‘I’m a Christian’. Nor do I pepper my writing with scripture references or approach my topic, which is relationship abuse, from an identifiable Christian worldview.

My detractors felt I was being cowardly and urged me to boldly declare myself so that my readers, mostly lost and lonely souls, may be led to God. I disagreed … and still do.

Vivid in my memory is my own experience of enlightenment. Did I become a follower of Jesus in a millisecond? No. I did not. Did it happen because I communicated with Christians who shared the Word? Again … no. The truth is, I’d have run a mile in the opposite direction if I’d been approached by bible-wielding evangelists. Clearly, we must exercise extreme wisdom before blithely quoting scripture and pointing out the error of other people’s ways. 

‘A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; a time to be silent and a time to speak.’ Ecclesiastes 3:7

So what led me out of the darkness?

It was a simple, beautiful thing. God chose to send me my ‘Jesus in the flesh’ during a time of great grief and uncertainty. Not once did she mention His name, nor declare her faith. Instead, I was inexorably drawn to her warmth and calm, her poise and grace, her strength and her gentleness. Over time, perhaps eighteen months, I found myself wanting whatever it was she ‘had’. And so I laid my soul bare and asked her outright, telling her a little of my spiritual beginnings and my later walk on the wild side. She was as surprised as I was to find me ready, willing and waiting for Christ to enter my life and take the reigns. Yet she had led me to Him with her silent witness.

My blog needs to be a safe place for those damaged by intimate partner violence, whether it be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial. Frequently, it is a combination of those facets, and those who land on my blog-step are invariably deeply traumatized. Long-term abuse, particularly (surprisingly) psychological abuse, leaves victims with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Such people are in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’, and highly likely to run a mile, just like me, if confronted by a more aggressive Christian approach. I’ve ‘been there’ and God has been faithful to allow me to use my circumstances for the greater good. The approach I adopt is one He has made clear to me. I wait until people ask, or otherwise indicate to me their readiness. I support a number of my followers through prayer and discussion of Christian principles, but rather than place these in public view, I keep them in the comments section or within private emails. 

‘… but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone WHO ASKS YOU to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence …’   1 Peter 3:15

Although we are instructed to not hide our lights under a bushel, we are also called to use discernment. Actions, after all, speak louder than our words.

Sometimes, Jesus Himself resorted to silence. 

‘But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, "I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God."’    Matthew 26:63

Occasionally, He also exhorted others to keep silent. In Mark 41, when Jesus heals a leper, he also sends him away with a strong warning.

‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone.'

When his command was disobeyed, problems ensued, forcing Jesus to leave town and continue his ministry elsewhere. Opening our mouths at the wrong time can have serious consequences and we shouldn’t take this responsibility lightly. We also need to consider James 1:27.

‘Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.’

In other words, what God finds acceptable is compassion in action, meeting needs where and when we perceive them. This is the primary purpose of my blog; to extend love, compassion, understanding, acceptance and support to those in emotional pain. It is not everyone’s calling, but it is mine.

(Footnote: Sadly, scripture is used by a sizeable percentage of Christian men, pastors included, to justify spousal abuse. The ‘submission’ Scriptures are trotted out ad nauseam as a means of control and oppression. Having worked in the mental health field, I have witnessed this first hand on too many occasions.)

Melinda Jensen
(If you receive a security warning when you click on the link, it is only because I run a wordpress blog that is hosted elsewhere so that I have my own unique domain name. I assure you it is secure and you can bypass the warning by following the appropriate steps outlined. Thank you for visiting.)

Melinda is a writer concerned with social justice, equality, the environment and most importantly, spirituality. She identifies as a follower of Jesus and prefers the label 'Christi-anarchist'. She has had some modest publishing credits - poetry published in two anthologies and short stories published in national magazines and anthologies. Her passion is writing for middle readers, using fantasy themes to educate young people about environmental and social issues. She has two such novels under construction.


  1. Hi Melinda. Thanks for your thoughtful post. It is sad indeed that too many use Paul's teaching on marriage to twist it into control and oppression - ignoring his admonition to 'Submit one to another' (ie mutual submission) of Ephes 5:21 as well as the emphasis on sacrificial and Godly love that is the focus of that passage.

    I hear what you are saying. I like how you end 'It is not everyone’s calling, but it is mine.' God has given each of us a unique voice and calling. For some that means a more overt message or a mainly Christian audience. For myself, in my fiction, I interweave Christian values and faith in God in an understated, subtle way which, I hope, will engage both Christians and non-Christians alike. Sometimes it's more overt, at other times it is much more in the background. That, I believe, is my calling. Thanks again for sharing from the heart about yours.

    1. Hi Jeanette, thank you for your comment. I'm glad I managed to convey the understanding that each of us have a unique role and purpose. And yes, how sad it is indeed that so many gloss over Paul's writing on mutual submission. So many relationship problems could be worked out in love, and so many divorces avoided.

      It's time for me to visit your page again and pick up a book or two of yours, methinks. :)

  2. I'm wrestling with the issue of how 'subtle' or how 'overt' I need to be with my novel as I work through the editing process. Initially I only intended allegorical elements, but it has had a mind of its own and become much more obvious. I am praying for wisdom as I edit those sections, to know what needs to stay and what needs to go. I found your insight timely. Thank you.

    1. Hi Mazzy. It's a tough call, isn't it? And so individual. I certainly know what you mean by fiction having a mind of its own - that's part of being a good writer I think; planning a part of our stories and yet letting the characters develop the plot along with us.

      I pray for wisdom for you also as you continue to edit your work. And I look forward to you being published soon!

    2. Thanks Melinda :)

      Actually - that reminds me, I need to update my websites :)

      Its very subtle in my story The Herbalist's Daughter (part of the Tied in Pink anthology) and Lakwi's Lament (in Like a Girl anthology due to be released 15 Nov),both general market books - while more to the fore in Ruhanna's Flight (about to be published in Glimpses of Light) and Heart of the Mountain (I'm hoping to publish at end of December). While, Sandy: Perfect Plans (in Let the Sea Roar) is a contemporary story written for Christians). Haven't got my books published yet - but they are somewhere between The Herbalist's Daughter and Heart of the Mountain.

    3. It does depend a lot on the target audience - but also, I think, expressing Christian values and ideas in language that people outside the Christian bubble understand :) It's great that you are following God's calling - praying that He continues to bless that :)

    4. Whoops - meant to put those responses up further.

    5. What a busy woman you are! I look forward to your book publications. Anything titled 'The Herbalist's daughter' has already hooked me in. :)

  3. Great post Melinda. I know you will follow His lead about when to be silent and when to be explicit as you reach out to folks in pain. I loved the story of your conversion. It's the love of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit that brings people to Him - often not what we say or don't say. And yes, there is a time to be silent. I fully agree. May God continue to use you to bless and reach the hearts of those who are hurting and who need our Saviour. Many blessings on your writing dear friend and all power to our pen as it is gently wielded under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

  4. Hi Anusha, and thank you as always for your support, encouragement and elegant words. Every now and then I ponder whether it is time to shut down my blog and concentrate on my other writing because my energy is so limited. Invariably, I receive an email out of the blue, thanking me for my blog and/or asking for help. Every time. :) And so I plod slowly on. Bless you.

  5. A very thought-provoking post Melinda. Thanks for sharing your heart. I think there definitely is a time to be silent and just be the hands and feet of Jesus to someone. It's easy for well-meaning Christians to 'put people off' by quoting scripture at people. But then there are other times when they might be open and ready to hear what the Bible has to say. Yes, discernment is definitely needed. I'm sure your blog is a blessing to many as they walk through their recovery journeys. Good on you for making yourself vulnerable so that you can help others. Take care xx